Bananarama - Deep Sea Skiving.
It’s too bad that Bananarama will be forever known for their awful version of “venus”. From the production to the instrumentation to the vocals to the video, its all too terrible. (frankly, the original wasn’t much to start with, but it still far outshines this remake.) oh, they’ll be remembered for “cruel summer”, too – it’s better than “venus”, I guess, but it’s just another 80’s hit. (I do like“Robert deNiro’s waiting”, though.) But this, their first album, IS good. And when I say “good”, I mean that side one is GREAT.
I never quite understood Bananarama. They’re three women who primarily sing in unison – the occasional harmonies aren’t much to speak of. Most of the time, they sound like 3 ladies at the pub singing karaoke. But that may be their appeal. Side one begins with maybe their best pure pop hit, “shy boy”, which should be the one that the radio plays over and over again. The ludicrous but wonderful “doctor love” follows, which was written by Paul Weller, the biggest curmudgeon rock and roll ever produced. It’s a great song, and it’s one of the few examples of a sense of humor Weller had shown at this point in his career (although some might argue that the Style Council was a 6 year joke, I’m not sure Paul was in on it). The cover of “really sayin’ somethin’” is next, and its my favorite recording from the band. Fun Boy Three sings backup on this - around the same time of this record, Bananarama sang backup on their debut album, notably on “tain’t what you do”: both cuts are terrific, fun, and deeply danceable (have I mentioned that this is definitely an 80’s sounding record? Some records from the same time period are almost unlistenable due to the outdated production, but this one has enough strong songs to not be damaged.) “what a shambles” comes next, & is pretty good, but mostly as a setup for “cheers then” which is a fantastic breakup song. Its not so much sadness from the breakup, as it is resignation – they (and I mean the 3 voices singing in unison – is it that they all broke up with the same person? Huh?) don’t sound broken hearted as much as disappointed with love in general. And this disenchantment sounding like it’s coming from high school girls who’ve realized that “happily ever after” is really just a phrase makes it all the more affecting.
Side two pales in comparison, simply because the songs aren’t as strong as side one. Though Bananarama wrote 4 of the 5 songs on side 2 (along with the last 2 on side one), the only one that rises above is the cool “boy trouble”, about dealing with a pesky persistent beau (“he thinks he’s here to stay / I wish he’d go away”). Their cover of “na na hey hey kiss him goodbye” is awright, but is the troubling precursor to “venus”: updating a 60’s hit with an 80’s sound, but robbing the song of the original charm.
Verdict: as an EP, its an A; as an LP it’s a B-.